The story first got legs last week in the Korean media with a ministry official answering questions as to whether South Korean nationals were among foreign jihadists fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS).
The initial line of questioning from the press grew out of the following quote given to CNN by 18-year-old Hamad al-Tamimi:
“There are people hailing from all over the world that have joined ISIS. From Norway, from America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon and European countries such as Germany and France.”
Korean officials initially dismissed the al-Tamimi claim.
“We’re working closely to find out if our nationals are among the ISIS jihadists, although we believe our people are most likely not involved,” a ministry official said. “However, it will take some time until we can truly confirm this.”
South Korean Teen then Reported Missing
Two days later on January 17th, a Turkish media outlet reported that an 18-year-old Korean visiting Turkey had gone missing.
“The man disappeared on January 10 after he left a hotel” in the southern Turkish town of Kilis near the border with Syria, an official told AFP.
The young man had been accompanied on part of his journey by an as yet unidentified South Korean man, who later reported the disappearance to the South Korean embassy according to Yonhap.
South Korean officials soon stepped in to assist in the hunt for the missing teen.
“We dispatched officials from our embassy on Tuesday and since then they have been searching for him, together with Turkish police,” the official said, while declining to give further details.
Turkish newspaper Milliyet later reported that the South Korean teen had not only crossed the Turkish border into Syria but that he had joined ISIS.
Evidence Points to Teen Possibly Joining ISIS Jihadists
According to Milliyet the teenager, identified only as “Kim”, exchanged emails with ISIS militants before he entered Turkey.
On Sunday South Korean authorities added that pictures of ISIS flags were found on his computer.
An employee of the hotel where Kim was staying before disappearing described Kim as a long-haired, skinny male with an uneasy demeanor.
“Kim looked very nervous here. When he left the hotel on Jan. 10, he wore a white mask with a backpack on.”
The employee further speculated: “He may have gone to Syria with Hassan,” a Turkish national whom Kim had exchanged emails with after meeting him on the Internet.
While officials acknowledge that the South Korean teenager could have indeed joined the Islamic State in Syria, they are considering other circumstances.
“We are open to all possibilities,” a police official said, implying that it is also possible that Kim may have been kidnapped.
If Kim has become a jihadist, he joins a growing list of foreign nationals flocking to ISIS. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency, more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries have gone to Syria to join up.
The Latest Haps
A 16-year-old boy was arrested this week on suspicion of stealing 26 bicycles from a military apartment and a high school.
The weekend forecast to begin the holiday week is set to be mostly sunny and warm around the southeastern region.
Busan’s education system will undergo a change for tests for elementary schools starting next year by removing multiple choice test questions from the curriculum.
For six days, fantastic short films from around the globe are back as the 34th Busan International Short Film Festival begins from April 25-30 at the Busan Cinema Center.
This Friday, April 21st, at HQ Bar KSU sees the return of the monthly Ha Ha Hole, Busan’s only live English comedy show.
With the large number of divorces over the past decade in Korea, many divorcees have decided to tie the knot for a second time.
You can win two round trip flight tickets with the “On the Road Busan Travel Stories” competition.
The legendary Kyungsung drinking institution, HQ Bar, will shut its doors this Tuesday with a final blow-out party.
Gorilla Brewing Company has begun offering “Fish and Chips Friday’s” at its brewery in Gwangalli.
A new monthly event at HQ Gwangan combines an afternoon of beach fun in the afternoon and great live music in the evening.
The Hapcheon Hwangmaesan Royal Azalea Festival gets underway for a two week run from April 30th to May 14th.
Popular video documentary team Great Big Stories has a cool little short about Mount Halla in Jeju that’s worth a look.
To meet rising demand for in South Korea, low-cost carrier Jeju Air announced that it will expand its fleet to 32 aircraft by December — the announcement coming after the airline’s 29th aircraft, a B737-800, was delivered to Gimpo International Airport over the weekend.
An official from SPO1, a public corporation in Busan, said it will hold bicycle races every Monday through the month of May.
Three great sailing events spanning 10 days take over the waters around Haeundae Beach beginning April 28th.
Global Gathering International Sports Day 2017 will take place at Norimaru playground in Seomyeon on Saturday, April 22, 2017.